Speaking on the future of the kernel, Morton said there is no overall roadmap. The direction of development is mostly determined by organizations that control kernel developers and they do not have plans, he said. But Morton did predict that virtualization, also known as containerization or resource management, would be a focus in the next one to two years. This technology offers benefits such as machine-partitioning, to partition workloads, as well as server consolidation, Morton said. Technology from the OpenVZ project, for Web server virtualization, is anticipated for the kernel, he added.
An audience member remarked that Novell NetWare has had file permission systems superior to Linux and asked how to get innovations added to Linux.
"I'm wondering what it would take to sort of get people to look at the way things ought to be," the audience member said.
Morton advised that in suggesting improvements to Linux kernel developers, users should present an actual use case of what they want to happen and note that the Linux kernel cannot do it. This frees the hands of developers to implement the user's requirement. The suggested functionality may already be in the kernel, Morton said.
The kernel "is a very large project," Morton said. "It's a very mature project. It's been around for a long time."
Key tasks include fixing bugs and adding support for new device drivers, he said. But there still is a high rate of change in the kernel, Morton said. The distributors of the kernel, such as Red Hat or Debian, are viewed as the main customers, he said.
The kernel undergoes multiple layers of testing before the product reaches an end-user, said Morton.
While embedded development is important for Linux, the kernel team lacks feedback paths from this community, Morton said. "Not many embedded developers really participate in kernel development," said Morton. But he said most of the pressure for features in the kernel is in the enterprise area because the desktop, consumer and embedded areas are addressed fairly well.
Previously, there was a dual path for the kernel, in which a new kernel technology was being developed alongside a stable, productized kernel. But this caused problems, with thousands of patches from the Linux 2.5 kernel being back-ported on top of 2.4 distributions.
Now, consumers are provided with the latest kernel technology and can decide on what to use from a continuous stream of kernel versions.
Morton had little to say about Novell's interoperability agreement with Microsoft over Linux, in which the companies agreed not to sue each other's customers over any intellectual property infringement issues. "I really don't understand [the agreement," he said. Morton said he had not spent time trying to understand what people are upset about in relation to the arrangement and that he had not seen any consequences of the agreement.